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Qui Parle, Volume 8, Number 1, Fall/Winter 1994

Vol. 8 | No. 1 | Fall/Winter 1994

    Special Issue: Allegory in Translation

Nowhere in Paris: A Tour of the Bièvre
John Culbert

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

A Lost River

In 1910 a stream that once flowed into Paris was buried and paved over. The rivière de Bièvre had long defined the character of its urban environment, whose history, demography and development attest to its perpetual influence. Paris in its beginnings was established along the banks of the stream where it joined with the Seine. In earlier times, the stream had given shape to the geography of the Paris basin, carving the bed that would be eventually usurped by the larger river on its course through the city. The Bièvre thus cannot fail to evoke the origin of the city and its primitive site. This missing origin and natural site can be read today in the traces of its withdrawal, the telling absences, spatial discontinuities and interrupted forms of the cityscape, what could be called a defining lack in the social space. A few years after its disappearance, in a place where the Bièvre had flowed to the city's very center, Eugene Atget photographed a gleam on the deserted rue de Bievre, giving form to the absence, not only to revive a geographical and historical space that goes unremembered today, but to explore the nature of absence itself.

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On Translatability
Alexander García Düttmann

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Whoever undertakes to think translation is perhaps forced to choose between two possibilities or two strategies which appear to rule each other out. Two possibilities or two strategies: as soon as there are at least two ways to take on an issue or a problem (indeed, one cannot take on an issue or a problem, one cannot even recognize it, unless there are at least two ways to do so), the possibility of strategy is given; every possibility can become a strategy for thinking. The first strategy follows the path laid out by a technical definition of translation. From the point of view of such a definition, everything depends on the use to which the translator puts the text he is translating: for this strategy, then, to conceive of translation as a self-sufficient, autonomous artistic form means to condemn it to failure and reflects a mistaken view of translation, which in fact can only be a means. The will to transform a means into an autonomous form is nourished by an unfounded underestimation of that which is essentially meant to be used. This will reflects our inability to employ the means and prevents us from thinking the functionality of the function. In a fragment on the pros and cons of translation Walter Benjamin insists on the necessity of dealing with translation as a means, as a technique [Technik] which can be combined with another technique: the commentary explains the difference between the "situations" in which language and the word always already find themselves.

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The Translation of Deconstruction
Jane Gallop

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Let me begin with a quotation from Jacques Derrida's "La Dissémination":

“[Le texte . . . tire une autre force d'une graphie I'envahissant ... venue d'au-delà du miroir . .. s'y traduisant en elle avant même d'apparaître.... Sa traduction active a été clandestinement inseminée, elle minait depuis Iongtemps ... votre texte domestique]

The text ... draws a different kind of strength from that graphy that invades it ... coming from the other side of the mirror ... translating itself into the latter even before appearing.... Its active translation has been clandestinely inseminated; it has for a long time been (under)mining ... your domestic text”

I begin with this quotation on account of the phrase "active translation." I wanted to take this phrase from Derrida, to try and formulate something we might perhaps call "active translation."

Twice in this passage, Derrida uses "translation" to refer to the action of the Chinese characters which punctuate Phillipe Sollers' novel Nombres. First, as a reflexive verb: the foreign writing "translates itself."

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The Remains of History
Jonathan Sheehan

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Paul de Man concludes his 1983 lecture on Walter Benjamin with a puzzling claim: "history is not human, because it pertains strictly to the order of language ... it is not phenomenal, in the sense that no cognition, no knowledge about man, can be derived from a history which as such is purely a linguistic complication." It is difficult to imagine a statement more likely to irritate a historian. And yet, one could hardly consider de Man's notion of history a simple one. Moreover, his later works on inscription and ideology gestured toward a more nuanced theory of history's relation to language than is apparent from the above citation. These reasons, in themselves, might be enough to make me pause and consider carefully exactly what de Man is saying. But that he asserts that history becomes a pure "linguistic complication" in the context of a lecture on Walter Benjamin's essay "The Task of the Translator," turns a puzzling claim into an astonishing one. Certainly Benjamin would not have been so reductive. From the very beginning of his career as a critic to his final "Theses on the Philosophy of History," Benjamin never ceased to return to history as a fundamental object. De Man's claim is reductive because, at least in the above context, history can only exist as decorative epiphenomenon of the real source of human activity: "the order of language." As a "complication," history becomes like a Leibnizian "composite" which must be treated as always secondary to the simple monadological substance which is language.

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“Bathed in Light That Is Not Bound By Space”: Subjectivity, Allegory and the Word in Book X of Augustine's Confessions
Gregory Moynahan

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The Word in St. Augustine's theology traces an at times almost imperceptible line between the effable and the ineffable, a line which is to be "passed over in silence," even as it is the foundation of Augustine's writings and the basis of each unfolding dimension of his theology. The silence to which Augustine refers is not simply empty, nor irredeemably obtuse, but in its tension constitutes an affective and dynamic relation to the world of human experience. Augustine's writings are often credited with offering an interior or affective definition of subjectivity, in which the truth of the world is grounded in the individual, as individuals endlessly scrutinize their thoughts and emotions in an attempt to decipher this truth. Augustine's understanding of the Word clarifies this shift from the classical relation of intellect and affect, which, for the first time, prioritizes the latter over the former and results in a definition of subjectivity that continues to enthrall us. Understood in Greek and Latin traditions as logos or verbum, the Word at its most rudimentary level is simply the truth –– but since the ground of this truth is an ineffable God, human attempts to apprehend it create a complex theological structure that is one site of the early Judeo-Christian fusion with Hellenic philosophy.

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   Review Essay

On Jean Paulhan's Récits
Ann Smock

A review of Paulhan, Jean. Progress in Love on the Slow Side. Translated by Christine Moneera Laennec and Michael Syrotinski. With an essay by Maurice Blanchot. (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1994).

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Volume 8.1 is available at JSTOR. Qui Parle is edited by an independent group of graduate students at the University of California, Berkeley and published by Duke University Press.